Libby Pease is my favorite person out of all of Willipaq County—an evocation of the usually broke and always hopeful denizens of, perhaps, just perhaps, Washington County, Maine—living free and wild in their very own Yoknapatawpha. In Maine, Hell is a destination resort, with slots and blackjack just over the next hill, but never next door. Libby’s interlocutors, even as Doctor Who’s companions, had to start somewhere. William Powell (The Thin Man) was my first choice for the first story. The tales became a diptych as she picked up a spiritual counselor, a 400-year-old medicine man. Then a trio as she pursued her evanescent mother’s lost eye. Then a quartet as her aged father turned blue and went to live inside the TV. Then a fifth tale, Grasshopper Dreams—it is sixty years later, a significant passage in the generations of grasshoppers, commerce and auguries. The remaining three stories are here because... Well, because.
An old maid, a dead Indian who is also a spirit-priest, eyeballs in a teacup, and ghosts of the long-gone can be found in “The Quilter Who Went to Hell” by Rob Hunter. Hunter fulfills the “weird” expectation with these. Readers are kept groping at the edges, searching for elusive meaning in a shifting landscape of memories and present events until it’s hard to tell which is real and which is memory. It is a pleasant confusion, and I didn’t really want to be unconfused. Hunter mesmerizes by his word choice, using combinations that hide as well as reveal. It’s an aesthetic that is essential to stories like these, where understanding isn’t all that important.